Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Beautiful Mediterranean Island of Sardinia

We had a pleasant day at sea on October 28th.  The waters were as smooth as glass.  I caught up on my audio book (Moby Dick), took a swim in the pool on board our ship, and relaxed.  We were supposed to go to Tunis in North Africa, but a U.S. State Department Warning about political unrest caused Holland America to change our itinerary and added a fifth Italian port of call: Olbia, Sardinia.

Smeralda Coast of Sardinia (picture from the back of our cab driver's card)
This was the first time that Holland America Line had docked at Olbia.  We docked at 6:45AM in the morning of  Tuesday, October 29.  The port was small and the town of Olbia easily accessed by a free shuttle bus provided by the port authorities. Ron and I decided to engage a taxi driver to take us on a tour of the island.  We bargained over the price with a fellow who spoke good English and seemed to be the "dispatcher" for a small fleet of eager taxi drivers.  We settled on 90 euros for a two hour guided tour of Costa Smeralda and Porto Cervo on the north end of the island. The driver who took us, Piero, was very congenial but spoke no English at all.  I spoke passable Spanish and had studied some basic Italian before the trip so I did the job of translator using limited Italian and my fairly fluent Spanish which Piero basically understood so we got by (Ron was impressed!). Piero was a native of Sardegna (the Italian word for Sardinia).  The island has a very interesting history with ruins of the Nuragic civilization and because of their isolation and numerous conquests by other peoples, the Sards have their own language and their own proud heritage that was distinct from the rest of Italy.

Here's a beautiful video on You Tube called "One Day in Sardegna" made by 19MARKESS85 :

Piero took us to the Costa Smeralda and insisted we stop and have our picture taken in front of the sign.  My usual camera shy husband declined to pose so that is why you're only going to see pictures of mostly me in the following pictures.

This area reminded me of my native coastal Southern California where I lived for more than 50 years before I moved to New Mexico.  The geology, the coastline, the vegetation all were similar to California so I felt like I was home.  The sea was clearer and bluer,  and believe it or not, the real estate was pricier!  The high cost of living on the Costa Smeralda and communities like Porto Cervo are the result of a rich Prince discovering the area in 1962 when his yacht took shelter in the harbor there.  Prince Aga Khan the IV fell in love with the area and quickly bought up the coastline to preserve it's natural beauty and ecology through a non-profit consortium.  He and investors then went on to develop one of the most exclusive vacation spots on earth.  The area has its critics and the antics of wealthy playboys and tycoons have raised the ire of the citizens of Sardinia but Sardinia completely understands the positive impact of tourism on its economy in addition to traditional economic activities like wine, cork, olives,  farming, livestock, and fishing.

View of Costa Smeralda

The crystal clear water of the beaches

I took my shoes off and stepped into the Mediterranean

What a beautiful place to share together!

A Cormorant fishing from the rocks

Perfect little flowers...

...perfect little beach...

The perfect little harbor at Porto Cervo...

...and the perfect little shops...

...all empty now since the season ended in September
We headed back to Olbia and found a cafe for tea and coffee.  The local restuarants don't open for lunch before 12:30PM or 1PM so we waited to try Antica Trattoria that Piero recommended for lunch.

I shopped a local farmer's market on the street tasting wines and liquers, honey, preserves and pastries before buying some limoncello, cookies, and some small cork boxes.  Cork trees on Sardinia are an important natural resource, producing 85% of all Italian cork.

Cork boxes with Sard designs

Limoncello made in Sardinia
We enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant in Olbia

Tried the local seafood and pasta

We enjoyed a seafood and pasta lunch at Antica Trattoria and walked back to the port shuttle to return to the ship.  Our ship set off at 5PM, headed for the Italian mainland and the Port of Livorno.  I was very excited that I would be visiting Florence the next day!

That evening, we opted to try one of the upscale restaurants on board the ship.  My dessert (a triple flavor Tiramisu) was very attractively presented. (Ohhh, I think I must have gained 10 pounds on this cruise so far!)

Tiramisu dessert 

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